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15 Killer Facts About Predator

Before you “get to da choppa,” how about you take a look at a few fun tidbits we found about Predator, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action classic that was released in theaters 30 years ago today.

1. THE MOVIE WAS ALMOST TITLED HUNTER.

The name wasn't switched to Predator until after production.

2. THE PITCH FOR THE MOVIE NAME-DROPPED SOME RECOGNIZABLE HITS.

In the film's DVD commentary, director John McTiernan shared that the film was pitched as “Rocky meets Alien," but McTiernan saw it more like King Kong: "Bunch of guys go to an island, and go deeper and deeper in, and shazam the thing they’re chasing turns out to be a lot bigger than they thought, and they have to turn around and run away!”

3. THE FILM WAS SHOT ENTIRELY ON LOCATION IN MEXICO.

The fictional jungles of Val Verde are actually locations in Puerto Vallarta and Palenque, Mexico. However, because the Mexican jungle is deciduous, tons of fake leaves had to be added to the trees in order to make the jungle seem lush and inescapable.

4. SHANE BLACK WAS CAST FOR HIS SCRIPT EXPERTISE, NOT HIS ACTING CHOPS.


20th Century Fox

Shane Black, who plays Hawkins, had previously written the screenplay for Lethal Weapon; he was covertly cast in the film so that he would be available to make on-the-fly and uncredited script changes while on set. Which makes it even more befitting that Black is writing and directing a new version of Predator, which is set to be released in 2018.

5. THE LOOK OF THE COMMANDOS WAS BASED ON THE SGT. ROCK COMICS.

Hawkins can be seen reading a Sgt. Rock comic in the end credits (see above).

6. PREDATOR IS PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER JESSE VENTURA’S FIRST MOVIE.

Jesse Ventura would later serve as the Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.

7. “OLD PAINLESS” SHOT BLANKS…

… but was still extremely deadly. The GE M134 Minigun wielded by Ventura’s character didn’t shoot live rounds, but for safety reasons, the cast and crew were required to stand at least 50 feet away when it was fired.

8. THE PREDATOR’S HEAT VISION ISN’T ACTUALLY HEAT VISION.

The filmmakers attempted to use actual heat vision for the Predator, but the specific camera proved impractical for the on-location shoot. Instead, normal footage was made into a negative image in post-production and exaggerated “heat vision” colors were added to create the effect.

9. THE PREDATOR’S GLOWING GREEN BLOOD WAS MADE FROM GLOW STICKS.

The filmmakers originally used an orange substance for the creature’s blood, figuring they would spiff it up with special effects in post-production. But the orange goop looked so bad on camera, they decided they had to make a change. They wound up using the luminescent liquid from the inside of glow sticks, which they bought over the counter.

10. JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME WAS THE ORIGINAL GUY IN THE PREDATOR SUIT.

The “Muscles from Brussels” was reportedly fired from the movie because he complained too much about how uncomfortable the suit was.

11. THE ORIGINAL DESIGN FOR THE PREDATOR WAS SCRAPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF PRODUCTION.

The original suit resembled a lanky, bug-eyed insect, but McTiernan didn't think it was scary enough. He halted production on the entire movie so it could be redesigned. Arnold Schwarzenegger personally tapped effects wizard Stan Winston to revamp the Predator design. Winston had previously designed Schwarzenegger’s famous robot skeleton in The Terminator.

12. THE BREAK IN PRODUCTION WAS A BLESSING IN DISGUISE.

The stop in production to redesign the Predator allowed the filmmakers to edit an hour of the movie together to show to the studio. They liked it so much that they gave the production more money to create bigger action sequences in the last third of the movie once filming picked back up
again.

13. JAMES CAMERON PARTLY INSPIRED THE CREATURE’S NEW DESIGN.

While on a flight during the production of Aliens, Cameron mentioned to Winston (who was sketching ideas for the new Predator) that he’d always wanted to see a monster with mandibles. Winston added the oral appendages to the final drawing of the updated Predator.

14. THE UPDATED PREDATOR SUIT WAS NO PICNIC TO WEAR.

The fully functioning suit weighed upwards of 200 pounds, which was a lot of weight for Kevin Peter Hall, the seven-foot-tall ballet dancer, martial arts expert, and actor they brought on to replace Van Damme.

15. OPTIMUS PRIME AND THE PREDATOR HAVE THE SAME VOICE.

Peter Cullen, who is uncredited in Predator, provided the voice for both.

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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Charles Dickens Wrote His Own Version of Westworld in the 1830s
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Charles Dickens never fully devoted himself to science fiction, but if he had, his work might have looked something like the present-day HBO series Westworld. As The Conversation reports, the author explored a very similar premise to the show in The Mudfrog Papers, a collection of sketches that originally appeared in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1838.

In the story "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a scientist describes his plan for a park where rich young men can take out their aggression on "automaton figures." In Dickens's story, the opportunity to pursue those cruel urges is the park's main appeal. The theme park in Westworld may have been founded with a slightly less cynical vision, but it has a similar outcome. Guests can live out their heroic fantasies, but if they have darker impulses, they can act on those as well.

Instead of sending guests back in time, Dickens's attraction presents visitors with a place very similar to their own home. According to the scientist's pitch, the idyllic, Victorian scene contains roads, bridges, and small villages in a walled-off space at least 10 miles wide. Each feature is designed for destruction, including cheap gas lamps made of real glass. It's populated with robot cops, cab drivers, and elderly women who, when beaten, produce “groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect.”

There are no consequences for harming the hosts in Westworld, but the guests at Dickens's park are at least sent to a mock trial for their crimes. However, rather than paying for their misbehavior, the hooligans always earn the mercy of an automated judge—Dickens's allegory for how the law favors the rich and privileged in the real world.

As for the Victorian-era automatons gaining sentience and overthrowing their tormenters? Dickens never got that far. But who knows where he would have taken it given a two-season HBO deal.

[h/t The Conversation]

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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